T cells are considered pivotal in the pathology of multiple sclerosis (MS), but their function and antigen specificity are unknown. To unravel the role of T cells in MS pathology, we performed a comprehensive analysis on T cells recovered from paired blood, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) and white matter lesions (WML) from 27 MS patients with advanced disease shortly after death. The differentiation status of T cells in these compartments was determined by ex vivo flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. T-cell reactivity in short-term T-cell lines (TCL), generated by non-specific stimulation of T cells recovered from the same compartments, was determined by intracellular cytokine flow cytometry. Central memory T cells predominated in CSF and effector memory T cells were enriched in NAWM and WML. WML-derived CD8+ T cells represent chronically activated T cells expressing a cytotoxic effector phenotype (CD95L and granzyme B) indicative for local antigenic stimulation (CD137). The same lesions also contained higher CD8+ T-cell frequencies expressing co-inhibitory (TIM3 and PD1) and co-stimulatory (ICOS) T-cell receptors, yet no evidence for T-cell senescence (CD57) was observed. The oligoclonal T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire, particularly among CD8+ T cells, correlated between TCL generated from anatomically separated WML of the same MS patient, but not between paired NAWM and WML. Whereas no substantial T-cell reactivity was detected towards seven candidate human MS-associated autoantigens (cMSAg), brisk CD8+ T-cell reactivity was detected in multiple WML-derived TCL towards autologous Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) infected B cells (autoBLCL). In one MS patient, the T-cell response towards autoBLCL in paired intra-lesional TCL was dominated by TCRVβ2+CD8+ T cells, which were localized in the parenchyma of the respective tissues expressing a polarized TCR and CD8 expression suggesting immunological synapse formation in situ. Collectively, the data suggest the involvement of effector memory cytotoxic T cells recognizing antigens expressed by autoBLCL, but not the assayed human cMSAg, in WML of MS patients.

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Keywords Autoantigens, CD8 T cells, Epstein–Barr virus, Multiple sclerosis, Pathogenesis
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00401-017-1744-4, hdl.handle.net/1765/100507
Journal Acta Neuropathologica
van Nierop, G.P, van Luijn, M.M, Michels, S.S. (Samira S.), Melief, M.J, Janssen, M, Langerak, A.W, … Verjans, G.M.G.M. (2017). Phenotypic and functional characterization of T cells in white matter lesions of multiple sclerosis patients. Acta Neuropathologica, 1–19. doi:10.1007/s00401-017-1744-4